Tales from TEKville by TheEvilKaren

Photo stories featuring 1:6 scale dolls

Part 8 - The Buzz Around Town

 

The terms of Randolph St. Clair's secret will become the talk of the town immediately after the reading.  Every home and business in TEKville is abuzz with speculation about "Old Man St. Clair's" biracial grandchildren.

At "Hair Today", Lily Parker's new beauty salon, Camille St. Clair complains bitterly to her best friend, Allegra.

 "How could Father have done such a thing!? Leaving his real children -- and his wife -- penniless while favoring those . . . those . . ." She uses a term that shocks even Allegra, who is quite accustomed to Camille's spiteful intolerance for anyone "foreign" or ethnically different.

 Lily and William exchange wide-eyed glances over the heads of their clients.

"But Camille, when he made the will he didn't even have a family, much less a wife!"

"Oh, that's a load of bull and you know it!  He knew where he'd hidden the book -- and the will -- and could have retrieved it at any time.  He could have had another will drawn up, protecting his family!  But no, that spiteful old bastard cut us off without a penny!"

"You never knew him, Camille.  I'm sure there were extenuating circumstances."

"Why are you taking his side?  I thought you were my friend!"

Allegra sighs and changes the subject.

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At the sushi bar, Eugenia, Alexia and Gloria meet for lunch.

Gloria brings up the subject that is on everyone's mind.  "What are we going to do about Mother once these upstarts steal her money and leave her penniless . . . and homeless?"

"Don't worry about it, Glo.  Genie or I will take her in.  Fortunately we married well and have no need for Father's money."

"Exactly.  I'm just worried about her state of mind.  She has been . . . distant . . . ever since young Jessy's appearance and trial."

"I think the knowledge of Natalia's actions has been very hard on her.  I finally had to give up my search for Nat.  The thought that my own twin could be capable of such acts has been very difficult for me to accept.  I can only begin to imagine how it would be for a mother."

"Cece is going to take it pretty hard, too."

"That girl has always been a lost soul.  You did your best raising her, Glo.  She had a far better life than she would have if her own mother had raised her, far be it from me to criticize my sister."

"That particular apple didn't fall far from the tree.  Camille is a 'lost soul' in her own way.  I feel for the children she did raise."

"Angel seems to have her feet planted squarely on the ground.  Having Camille for a mother doesn't seem to have done her any permanent harm."

"Colette has turned out to be a fine young woman, but Camille did a great deal of damage to her when she was younger.  Marrying that Rodrigues boy was the best thing she could have done.  She actually seems happy, finally."

"Yes, with her brood of half-breed children."

Eugenia and Alexia turn on their sister with annoyance.

"Stop it, Gloria!  You sound like Camille!"

"I thought we were making progress with your attitude."

Gloria has the grace to look embarrassed.  She brings the subject back to their father's estate in order to divert attention from her own lapse.

"Sometimes I think Camille has just been waiting for Mother to pass on so she can get her hands on that money.  This new twist falls into the 'karma' category."

Alexia nods.  "Agreed.  But it's not Camille that concerns me.  It's Mother."

"The girls have invited her to the bungalow for tea.  I'm not sure whether that's just what she needs right now or whether it's a mistake to remind her of everything she stands to lose."

Their conversation continues in much the same vein for the duration of their lunch date.

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At the bungalow, Coco and Colleen fuss over their grandmother, who has just arrived.

They were initially somewhat surprised at her acceptance of their invitation, as she has never shown much interest in visiting the house once she moved to an apartment and leased it to them.  She sits, stiff-backed and unsmiling as usual, as they bustle about.

Jes hangs in the background, having never forged a relationship of any kind with this woman who bore her birth mother.

"Here is your tea, Grandmother.  Are you comfortable?"

"Yes, child.  Thank you."  A touch of a smile lightens her expression as she notes that the cup Coco hands her is one of a set she bought her granddaughters when they were children.

" I made some cookies earlier. Would you like one?"

Ethel smiles.  "Perhaps later, Coco.  I'm not very hungry, but it's hard to pass up your baking.  How is your restaurant doing?"

"It's doing very well, thank you.  With the influx of people moving to TEKville, it can't help but thrive!"

"And your television show?"

"I need to film some new ones, but I've been busy helping Darius with his renovation project.  The shows that have aired so far are all in reruns, which doesn't work all that well with a limited viewing audience."

"How about you, Colleen?  Has this 'renovation project' interrupted your band's schedule?"

"Somewhat, yes, but we've gotten a few out-of-town gigs to fill the gaps, and Darius promises that he won't have to remain closed for long.  Ranger Construction has a couple of new employees and they're making good time on the project.  One of them, in fact, is Jes's father, Connor."  Jes remains standing awkwardly against the bookshelves as Colleen makes an effort to include her in the conversation.

Ethel's eyes reluctantly turn to the granddaughter she has never known.  "Child, I have never properly welcomed you to the family.  I regret . . . I very much regret the circumstances of your birth and childhood.  I feel somehow responsible, if only for giving birth to the woman who bore you."

Shyly, Jes smiles.  "It's not your fault, Grandmother.  Look how well your other . . ." she pauses as she recalls what she knows and has seen of Camille.  ". . . most of your other daughters turned out!"

"And how are you feeling, dear?"  Ethel is a product of her upbringing and doesn't make a direct reference to Jessy's swollen belly.

"I'm feeling fine, but very awkward and very ready to meet my child."

"I'm very pleased to hear that you have a relationship with your father, Jessica."

"Thank you, Grandmother.  I'm very grateful to have found a family at last, and not just Connor."  She smiles at her cousins, who took her in without question when she first arrived in TEKville and provided her with the first glimpse into what being "family" means.  "I'm especially thankful now that the baby is almost to full term.  It would be very difficult being a single mother without the support the St. Clairs have given me."

"Will you not marry the father, then, Jessica?"

Some of the sadness that has haunted Jes since the arrival of Morgan Campbell returns to her eyes.  "No, Grandmother.  I will not be marrying the father."

In an effort to acknowledge the elephant in the room and to change the subject, Colleen speaks up.  "Grandmother, will we have to move?  Coco and I can easily get an apartment near downtown.  It makes sense for us to be closer to the bar and Coco's restaurant, and with our careers taking off, we can afford the rent.  But we're worried about Jes and the baby."

Ethel stares at her tea, avoiding Colleen's eyes.  Unshed tears glitter behind her lowered lashes.  "I don't know, child.  I hope not, but I haven't met with that lawyer fellow yet so I'm not sure how it's all going to work out."

Impulsively, Colleen blurts out "You can live with us if you have to move!"

Coco is quick to agree.  "Absolutely!"  But once the words leave her mouth she pictures her grandmother's reaction to the many occasions on which Darius and/or Peter spend the night.

Ethel smiles sadly.  "Thank you, my girls.  But I'm quite certain that one of your aunts will take me in if that becomes necessary.  Jessica, I'm equally certain that your aunt Alexia would be more than happy to have you live with her.  She still feels a sense of responsibility for what happened to you, just because it was her twin who abandoned you."

A gray mood settles over the room.  In an attempt to brighten it, Coco proposes that they go to the kitchen for some of her fresh-baked cookies.

"I would like that, Coco.  I would like to sit at my harvest table once more, and look at my collection of glassware for the last time.  I suppose even that belongs to those two strangers now, too."

The mood is decidedly dreary as they retire to the kitchen.

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At Player's mansion . . .

"Stop that, Player!  I am trying to think!"

"I'm thinking, too.  Thinking about how beautiful you look with your hair spread across my pillows."

"I am serious!  I need to figure out how this business with zee will can be used to my advantage."

"Justice, you've gotten along just fine without your family's money up to this point.  Why do you even care who ends up with it?"

"I do not particularly care.  I just do not want her to end up with any of it."

"Let it go, Justice.  You've long since made your point with your mother."

Justice rears up in indignation.  "Do NOT call her zat!  She was nevaire a mother to me!  She is merely 'Camille'."

Player thinks back to his affair with Camille but wisely remains mute about how similar mother and daughter really are.  That is not a comparison that would be looked upon favorably by his current paramour.

"Why don't I have the maid bring us a bottle of champagne?  That always puts you into a better mood."

Justice sighs.  "Very well.  But if you are thinking it will put me into zat kind of a mood, you are mistaken.  I am too distracted today."

Player smiles as he reaches for the phone.  He has never yet failed to focus her attention completely on him once he has set his mind to it.

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At The Closet  . . . .

"Oh, Angel!  Look at this dress!  It would be so perfect for you!"

There is no response from Angel.  She feigns interest in the purses on the rack against the wall, but in fact her thoughts are anywhere but on shopping.

London and Maeve exchange glances.

London picks up the dress and crosses to where Angel is ostensibly admiring a particularly chic bag and taps her on the shoulder.  "Earth to Angel!"

Angel looks up, startled.  "Huh?  Oh, I'm so sorry, London!  Were you talking to me?"

Maeve frowns.  "Is the whole will thing still on your mind, Angel?  You've been sort of out of it for days now."

"I can't help it!  It's just such a mixed-up mess!  Fortunately Daddy set up my trust fund in such a way that Mother couldn't get her hands on any of it, so I don't need any of my grandfather's fortune.  I just feel so badly for Grandmother!  How could that old bastard die without providing for her!?"

London tosses the dress onto a nearby chair and hugs her friend.  "It'll all work out, sweetie.  There are enough St. Clairs with money that your grandma won't starve."

Maeve joins them and pipes up.  "You could even help her out yourself with some of your daddy's trust fund.  You've hardly touched it since your freelance photography business has taken off."

Angel sighs.  "Yes, you're both right, but it's not so much about the money as it is Grandfather's treatment of his wife . . . . and all of his legitimate heirs!"

"So, do you know anything about those 'other' grandchildren?  The ones who conveniently showed up in town just as your grandfather's will was found?"

"Not really.  I know that the color of their skin  -- especially the brother's -- is considerably darker than all of ours . . . the St. Clairs who live here.  I know that their grandmother -- my grandfather's mistress -- was his housekeeper, and I know that her name was Makeda.  That sounds like an African name, so I think we can safely guess that she wasn't of Swedish descent!"  Angel allows a small smile to lighten her general air of concern.  "I also know that the woman seemed genuinely distressed during the reading.  She is very beautiful.  If her grandmother was anything like her, it's no wonder my grandfather took her to his bed!"

London and Maeve both know a little bit about complicated relationships.  London is finally openly dating Mark, formerly her sister Ayumi's lover, and Maeve once had a clandestine fling with Player while he was Camille's boy toy.  Both women grow quiet as they consider the undeniable nature of lust.

A secret smile quirks the corners of Maeve's lovely lips as she recalls the tryst she had with Player during a party at Colette and Diego's condo a couple of years earlier.  It was the most incredible sex I've ever had, she thinks, even if it did occur on the hood of his Porsche under a street light!  What a wanton slut I was!  But I'd do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself.  Which it won't, not as long as Justice is in the picture!

London's thoughts turn to the rift that her relationship with Mark has caused between her and her sister.  It's not my fault!  Ayumi was just too pushy and clingy, and it drove Mark away.  It's not like I threw myself at him.  But I really hate that Yummy still won't talk to me and avoids me whenever possible.

Both girls are jolted from their reveries by the sales clerk, who chooses that moment to see if the three friends want her to start a dressing room for them.  For the time being, all thoughts of Ethel St. Clair's predicament are forgotten as the girls turn their attention back to shopping.

To be continued . . .